$1.3 Million: A closer look at Vicksburg’s ARPA allocations for community organizations

Published 2:55 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

The City of Vicksburg’s allocation of American Recovery Plan Act funds was $5.32 million.

Approved by Congress in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the money, better known as ARPA funds, was designed to provide opportunities for state and local governments to make strategic investments in long-lived assets, rebuild reserves to enhance financial stability and cover temporary operating shortfalls until economic conditions and operations normalize.

The federal funding was disbursed to local and state governments over a two-year period with Vicksburg receiving two payments of $2.661 million each that were disbursed using two categories — community-based and non-profit organizations, and revenue restoration such as tourism, infrastructure and recovery projects.

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As of Friday, the city has allocated $1.366 million of its $5.32 million to community and non-profit organizations for various activities such as tourism — local museums, education assistance and tutoring, food, community violence intervention and housing assistance.

“What we did was, we looked at the letter of the law and we executed, based on the letter of the law,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “But the primary goal of that money was one, to restore revenues, and two, bring back revenue; strong revenues for the underserved community.”

Some of the programs benefitting from city ARPA allocations serve children in underserved areas of the community. In many cases, the allocations to the organizations were split over a two-year period, while some allocations were for one year.

Further information on city disbursements on other programs and projects such as revenue recovery projects like the Iowa Boulevard erosion repair project will be discussed in a future story.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury states that ARPA funds can be used to meet the following needs identified following the COVID-19 pandemic:

• Revenue replacement for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, relative to revenues collected in the most recent fiscal year prior to the emergency.

• COVID-19 expenditures or negative economic impacts of COVID-19, including assistance to small businesses, households, and hard-hit industries, and economic recovery.

• Premium pay for essential workers.

• Investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Some of the larger recipients of city ARPA funds include the United Way of West Central Mississippi-Voyager Literacy Program, $266,000; and Cottage Homes of America, $100,000. Cottage Homes returned the money when it was unable to keep its contractual obligations.

Six of the city’s museums each received $20,833 for tourism, a total of $125,298.

While most of the organizations receiving money are education-related programs, other programs benefitting from City ARPA funds include Positive Pathways Behavioral Health LLC, $20,000 for mental health services; Wildwood Community Association, $10,000 for community violence intervention; HIV services, $18,000 for medical services/expenses; Jackson Advocate, $3,000 for small business assistance; and Warren County Children’s Center, $5,000 for a healthy childhood environment and services to foster youth.

Part of the stipulations for the use of ARPA funds is diligent record-keeping, meaning requests must be vetted appropriately and, after funds are allocated, the ways in which those funds are used must be reported to the County in an accurate and timely manner. As an added measure, audits are conducted on funding allocations of $75,000 or more.

“I can say this emphatically: every dime of the ARPA money has been spent according to the law. In fact, the legal department looked over everything that we sent out of our office. We sent it to the legal department to look at it,” Flaggs said. “And there’s a contract for all of those recipients; everybody that got it, for those recipients, there should be a contract agreement and an audit report.”

The city’s ARPA allocations to organizations include:

• The Arch Group (Kids R Coding; Kids Are Kids Daycare): $24,879.90, education assistance.

• Jacqueline House African America Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Catfish Row Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Vicksburg Civil War Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Vicksburg Civil War Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Biedenharm Coca-Cola Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Old Courthouse Museum: $20,833.34, tourism.

• Vicksburg Transportation Museum (Old Depot)-Programs: $20,833.34, tourism.

•Positive Pathways Behavioral Health LLC: $20,000, mental health services.

• United Way-Voyager Literacy Program: $266,900, education assistance.

•United Way Excel 5 Program: $2,500, education assistance.

• Wildwood Community Association: $10,000, community violence intervention.

• New Beginnings of Vicksburg: $5,000, food program.

• Children Education Station Daycare Learning Center: $5,000, education assistance.

• Vicksburg Catholic School Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center: $20,000, education assistance.

• Crawford Street Play School Early Learning Center: $10,000, education assistance.

• Central Mississippi Prevention Services: $15,000, education assistance.

• Triumph Ministries Inc. dba Kings Empowerment Center: $20,000, education assistance.

• Carpe Diem Management LLC: $5,000, tourism.

• Vicksburg Battlefield Museum (Old Depot) Capital-rehab trolley & display area for the city’s 1900 horse-drawn fire wagon: $253,154.51, tourism.

• Faith Walker Learning Development (GED/standardized testing classes): $5,000, education assistance.

• Touch Inc., Youth enrichment program for 50-plus children ages 5-19 at 1100 Main St.: $10,000, education assistance.

• Step by Step Performing Arts Academy: $8,000 education assistance.

• We Care Community Services Inc.: $10,000, education assistance.

• Lifting Lives Ministries Inc.: $20,000, housing support.

• Mountain of Faith Ministries: $20,000, housing support.

• Vicksburg Convention Center: $5,000, tourism.

• Linda Sweezer Enterprises: $16,000, small business assistance.

• Brilliant Minds Tutorial Services LLC: $7,500, education assistance.

• NuLife Healthcare LLC: $20,000, mental health services.

• HIV Services Inc.: $18,000, medical services/expenses.

• Good Foundations Tutoring Services, contract one of two: $5,000, education assistance.

• Good Foundations Tutoring Services, contract two of two: $2,500, educational assistance.

• Turner Speech & Language Services LLC: $5,000, educational services.

• Vicksburg Convention Center: $13,300 tourism.

• Center for Pregnancy Choices: $5,000, medical services/expenses.

• Omicron Rho Lambda Educational Foundation Inc.: $5,000, educational assistance.

• Medgar and Angela Scott Foundation: $30,000, education assistance.

•Fuzzy Johnson Baseball League: $100, education assistance-social.

• James “Fuzzy” Johnson Foundation: $2,500, education assistance-social.

• Drive-to-Thrive Mentoring Program (Fateca Grant): $2,500, education assistance.

• Jackson Advocate: $3,000, small business assistance.

• Jacob’s Ladder Learning Center Inc.: $10,000, education assistance.

• Good Shepherd Community Center on behalf of Empower YOUniversity: $8,400, education assistance.

• Travelers Rest Christian Academy: $10,000, education assistance.

• Triumph Church: $5,000, education assistance.

• Warren County Children’s Center, a solution of MS Children’s Home Society dba Canopy Children’s Solutions: $5,000, healthy childhood environment services to foster youth.

• JB Entertainment Group: $17,777, tourism.

• Alcorn State University National Alumni: $1,500. tourism.

• Rainbow Farms: $2,000, aid to nonprofit organization.

• Community Council of Warren County: $10,500, aid to nonprofit organization.

Subtotal of community groups commitments: $1,366,011.45

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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